ASUS ZenBook S UX391U Review: Compact, Reliable Workhorse

by John Nieves  December 14, 2018

It’s hard to go wrong with the ZenBook S

While there’s certainly no shortage of 2-in-1s and convertible notebooks in the market, most people tend to gravitate to more traditional notebooks when push comes to shove. ASUS has released several excellent notebook models in the past, but their newest ZenBook S is certainly one of our favorites so far. This small but powerful ultrabook has both power and style – all in a package that’s smaller than its competitors.

That’s a really small notebook.

It sure is. The ZenBook S is one of those notebooks that you forget you’re carrying once you throw it into your bag. It barely tips the scales at around a kilo (or around 2.2 pounds in freedom units), making it one of the lightest notebooks in its class.

It’s also one of the smallest – thanks to slimmer overall bezels and a shrunken chassis, the ZenBook S fits in all but the smallest of bags. The best part is that while it’s pretty small and thin, the ZenBook S is tough. While we were pretty gentle with it during our review (it’s not ours to keep after all), ASUS boasts that the aluminum-bodied ZenBook S has a MIL-STD 810G rating for drops, temperature, humidity, and altitude. That means you’ll have to be extremely careless to actually damage the thing during use.

The notebook is styled in ASUS’ typical ZenBook aesthetic: it’s made from aluminum, machined with the company’s trademark, concentric “Zen” circle pattern on the lid, along with copper highlights on the chamfers.

The standout feature for this year is the hinge on the bottom, that props the keyboard up at an angle when the screen is opened. It’s a small design tweak to the typical notebook formula that adds a ton of benefits: it improves airflow and keeps the notebook cooler, it gives you better ergonomics while typing and amplifies the audio that emanates from the chassis.

Since we’re on the topic of the chassis, one major design tradeoff that resulted from making the body so thin are the I/O ports. You’re pretty much stuck with USB Type-C on this thing (of which there are 3), which means you either get additional adapters to use your regular USB accessories or get Bluetooth peripherals. Charging is done via the Type-C ports as well.

Does the keyboard suck for typing?

Not at all – considering the small size of the body, we were pleasantly surprised that the notebook had plenty of travel for its keys.

Despite the keyboard being better than we expected, it wasn’t the same case for the touchpad. It was small and a bit hard to use, especially when you’re trying to pinch zoom. The silver lining here is that there’s a fingerprint scanner on its corner, making secure log-ins quick and easy.

How’s the display?

Pretty good. The variant that we received for review had a 4K, 13.3-inch LED 3840×2160 touchscreen display with 100% sRGB color gamut coverage.

Viewing angles were generous (178 degrees), and the display is accurate enough for serious photo/video editing work.

Is it even powerful enough for that though?

It is, as the top-tier variant is powered by Intel’s latest Core i7-8550U processor (1.8GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz), 16GB of RAM and 500GB of PCIe SSD storage.

Boot times were quick, and the notebook felt fast and zippy during its time with us. While the ZenBook S doesn’t have discrete graphics (it only has Intel’s built-in UHD Graphics 620) it handled photo/video editing tasks fine.

Volume from the hidden speakers on the base of the lid was surprisingly loud and not tinny, which we kind of expected from such a small notebook like this. The notebook got a bit warm, but that’s to be expected.

What’s the battery life look like?

Average. While ASUS boasts 13.5 hours using the 4-cell, 50Wh lithium-polymer battery, we only averaged about six hours during regular use during work hours. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. It’ll probably be gasping for air midway through your long-haul flight.

Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for a small, dependable yet powerful notebook that weighs next to nothing, then yeah, you should definitely consider ASUS’ ZenBook S.

It is a little pricey though, with the top end configuration that we reviewed coming in at Php 99,995. The lower Core i5 variant with less RAM and full HD display comes in at Php 74,995, and even then it’s still a bit more than the competition.

That being said, the ZenBook S is still a good choice if you’re the sort of person that’s always away from the office visiting a site or location and don’t want to contend with a heavy, bulky notebook.

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